To say I was surprised by your actually responding to my email, would be an understatement! I'm touched that you did. Just to repeat: I'm not sure I even speak and write English as well as you and it's my first and only language! Either way, your message comes through very well. I think that those of us involved with narcissists NEED to talk about it. We feel so crazy that we self-isolate, hide what's going on from friends and family, and learn to blame ourselves for all that is wrong. When we finally realize what's going on, the need to speak about it is overwhelming. Finally, we have proof that we are not crazy. I appreciate this opportunity to tell you some of my story. Though I must insist on anonymity because we are still living in the same house.
In my situation, it seemed as if every time I tried to gain some power back, by trying to become more independent, my husband would push me back down---but always in subtle ways. For instance, if I was feeling good about something (such as getting my art in a show or gallery), and I would voice that pride or happiness, my husband would say something like "well, it's just a small show", when what I expected to hear was "yes, good for you." There was truth to what he said, it WAS a small show; (I would think, oh, maybe he's right. Maybe it really is not as big of an accomplishment as I'd thought.) I'd go from feeling really good, to feeling really diminished--in a few short words from him. Or if I wanted to do something on my birthday and it conflicted with something he wanted to do, he would tell me I was selfish.
It was this constant diminishing of all of my efforts (work, home, relationship), and his refusal to ever treat me in a special way, that helped me to see that there was more going on in my marriage than just simple disagreements. I just couldn't figure out what it was. The harder I tried, the further from the truth I seemed to get. (I've read a list of over ten books trying to figure it out. Everything from Should I Stay or Go? to How to Read People, to the Dark Side of the Light Chasers and everything in between. From spiritual, to self-help, to how to be a better person.)
We've been together for 27 years. It was around year 20 that I started to question what was happening to us. Prior to that, I just assumed it was all my fault. I know now, that a person with healthy self-esteem would never accept all the blame in any relationship, but I believed he loved me, and I so loved and adored him (a word I used for years when describing my feelings toward him,) that I believed him when he told me it was ALL my fault. I have lots of faults, not the least of which is being sensitive. He often blamed all of our problems on that sensitivity. "You're over-reacting" was a phrase I heard over and over for 27 years. Even if at first I questioned it, he's a spectacular "arguer." Often-times he would wear me down with hours of arguing, until I gave in just out of wishing the conversation would end. Other times, he'd attack my faults, which I knew to be true faults, and in those cases, I'd look inward for what I should have done differently. I was always willing to accept blame. Always willing to work on myself. Always willing to make changes.
In 27 years, he's never admitted to being at fault or to blame for anything. He once stepped on my toe, and instead of apologizing, he blamed me for having my toe in the wrong place! I remember at the time being surprised that he couldn't apologize for such a simple thing. The rest of us apologize for little things like that, reflexively. And yet he found it too difficult a thing to do. Who in their right mind would say that a toe was in the wrong place? But he did, and he was fine with it. In all these years, he's never apologized even in those circumstances. He has flat out told me that we wouldn't have any problems if it weren't for me!
Marriage counseling (at my insistance) was a colossal failure for us. We tried twice to no avail. Both counselors (female) fell for his charms in ways that shocked me. The first one, knew one of our main problems was his need to control our money, and still she asked me to do graphics work for her, in front of him. (Which I've since learned is an ethical boundary). The second one, was so charmed that while I cried during one of our sessions, she giggled and tossed a throw pillow toward him! I gave up. I gave him the "out" he needed by offering to stop marriage counseling if I could do therapy on my own. He agreed.
I am financially dependent on him. I make very little money as an artist, and the odd jobs I've taken over the years have not been enough to support myself. Essentially, I needed his "approval" to continue with therapy because he had to "authorize" paying for it. I began counseling with a great therapist who helped me to get stronger. The stronger I got, the more I fought back.
When he'd try to blame me, deny saying something, or promising something, etc., I began to see our arguments for the nonsensical conversations that they were. So much so, that I began tape-recording our arguments (both openly, and secretly at different times). I was beginning to realize that the things he was saying didn't make sense, but I needed the "proof". Not for anyone else to listen to, but for me to listen to outside the heat of the argument. By re-listening to those tapes, I started to realize how he would never answer my questions, except with another question, and how he would veer off into other topics, many other topics, and two hours later we were so far removed from the original discussion that it was no wonder I felt crazy!
That's when I bought a book on verbal abuse (by Patricia Evans) It described all of the different methods verbal abusers use to avoid real conversations. It helped me to understand, in the moment, what tactics he was using to avoid staying on topic. And it helped me to argue back. If he answered a question with a question, I could see it. If he changed the topic, I could see it. If he denied saying something I knew he said--and I had on tape---then I could remind myself that he most certainly did say that. This combined with therapy started me on a path to some recovery. This is when he decided that unless I let him sit-in on my therapy sessions (to see if they were really "helping or not"), then he would refuse to pay for it any more! Of course, I refused, and my therapy ended. That was the beginning of my "re-birth". But first, I spiraled down into an abyss of anger, depression, sadness, and drinking too much.
It was during this time (October of last year), that he handed me a book. Sam Vaknin's Malignant Narcissist which he'd heard about on conservative talk radio. I actually laughed when he handed it to me (in that, "you've got to be kidding?" sort of way). However, being the self-reflective person that I tend to be, I figured I had nothing to lose by reading it. As I searched to find myself in it's pages, I began to see my husband emerge. I read the book voraciously. Despite underlining almost the entire book, I still couldn't believe my husband was a narcissist. I saw the term as very pseudo-psycho, and I couldn't separate the term from the information in the book. So I put it aside.
Just a couple of months later, I was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma of the eyelid. I had to focus on that for the next few months. It was when my husband asked my oncologist if my "treatment was really necessary?", and when he couldn't help me wash my hair after my bone marrow biopsy, and when he argued with me after that very painful biopsy, in the car, all the way to my pet/ct scans, and when taking me to radiation was too much of a burden for him, that I remembered the book and began to see him for who he really was: Incapable of any empathy. Not even when I have cancer! I went to stay with family during my recovery (just this past May) because I couldn't trust that he would make a meal for me, let alone actually care for me.
It took cancer to make me see. Ironically, cancer of my eyelid. I suppose, if you are spiritual, you could say that I was so blinded, that God had to give me cancer of my eye,to make me see clearly again. I insisted on going back to therapy after my radiation treatments. I wouldn't take no for an answer and I began again, to rebuild my emotional strength. During that time, my therapist mentioned that my husband sounded like he had NPD! I mentioned that he'd given me that book some months ago, and she found that very telling---that HE gave ME a book on NPD!--- because, narcissists project, I learned, he saw me as the narcissist!
I began in earnest, trying to understand NPD, when I found a book titled Narcissistic Lovers, by Cynthia Zane. That book simplified NPD in a more relational way than Vaknin's book did, and helped me to see my marriage for what it was/is. When the realization hit, I cried for three days straight, day and night. It was visceral. My reaction was not just emotional, but physical. I literally kept feeling as if I might vomit. I felt punched in the stomach, at the thought that I wasted 27 years of my life loving him, and believing I was loved by him. That it had all been a lie, came barreling at me like a boulder in a land-slide. There was no longer a way to avoid it. I had to let it hit me and suffer the painful consequences. More painful than anything I had ever in my life experienced. For those three days, I actually didn't think I would come out the other side. I thought I would die of heartache. Instead, my husband died, and I woke up married to a stranger. Like someone with amnesia, I could feel nothing for him, because I didn't KNOW him. I didn't want to know this man.
Since then, I've been taking steps to get healthy, get financially healthy, and speak to a lawyer to protect myself, in an effort to leave. It may take me a couple of years to get it all together before I can--or I may end up just leaving with my dog and my clothes in a suitcase before then. (I have very supportive family, but none live in the state I live in.) I want to protect myself financially, if I can--and be independent. Not just of him, but of anyone else. But if I can't, I will accept that as well. Either way, I am breathing one minute at a time, reading all I can on this subject, and trying to stay as strong as I can.
The other websites on NPD, such as the support groups, seem very negative in their approach. The more I read those sites, the more frightened I became. I had to stop going to them. That's how I found your website. Looking for real help in understanding not just what NPD is, but what it does to the victims, in a more positive way. I don't want to be "scared into leaving". I want to be helped in leaving. I don't want to hate him. I want to love myself.
As I said, I will keep going back to read your material as I work toward leaving. I have many many stories I could tell, and if you're interested, or if you have any questions, just let me know. In the meantime, I hope this helps you with your research. Thank you for caring enough to do it. The victims of NPD live in a secret world. We need all the help we can get to inform the world how devastating this disorder can be. And to help us survive it.
The goal of this website is to give support to people who are facing problems in their relationship related to cheating, abuse and narcissism. I am living in Europe and English is not my native language, I wish you will excuse me if I make some grammatical errors. I decided to write in English because I wish to reach as many people as I can around the world. If you wish to read more about me, please visit page Site Overview.
Dear Visitor, you can read the developments in this writer's situation from the "comments" section at the end of this page (messages of "freebird"). Her story is a wonderful example of human courage! Only very few of us have the courage to do what she did. Let us give her our congratulations and our support!
Thank you for your letter and your positive feedback regarding my website. I am so sorry to hear that you have been in such a devastating relationship for such a long time. My Friend, it is never too late to get our from a negative relationship. Your story will help and encourage others to free themselves sooner. Thank you again so much for submitting your story! To read more about how you can help your mind to recover, visit page Training the Brain.
Based on your letter, it seems clear that you are dealing with a man who has strong narcissistic tendencies. You wrote your husband argued with you in a car after your painful biopsy. That is incredibly insensitive and cruel behavior. Having said this, I can understand so well why you have stayed with your husband all these years. You have been in love, and you have followed your heart, even though you have known there is something wrong with your marriage.
Please do not blame yourself for staying with your narcissistic husband this long. There are so many people out there who have stayed in a negative relationship much longer than you. Many of those people do not have the strength to leave, even though they know the relationship is having a negative effect on their lives. I am so glad to hear that you have started to read about this topic and that you now understand so much better what you are dealing with. Understanding the true nature of the problem is the key to liberation, that is one of the basic principles in psychotherapy, and you have now taken the first step towards the freedom. I recommend you to visit the page Recovery After Narcissism and Cheating to read about the methods I used to "teach" my mind to let go of my "addiction" to my narcissistic partner, I hope you find the same methods helpful. I also warmly recommend you to read this article of Regaining the Mental Balance and Happiness.
You wrote that you are financially dependent on your husband. I understand your situation so well. It is very difficult to leave when you do not know what the future holds. There is no simple answer as to what you should do in this situation. However, we can list the pluses and minuses:
Pluses (if you stay with your narcissistic husband):
- Your husband is offering you financial security
- You will feel very sad for some time if you leave your husband (at list this is what I would imagine, even thought your letter implies you would want to leave him if it was not for the financial dependency). You can avoid this sadness and uncertainty of the future if you stay with your husband, even thought you will never be completely happy with him
- You cannot rely on your narcissistic husband being there for you if you need him, you cannot ever fully trust him
- Your husband is making you feel depressed, anxious and sad on regular basis. This is slowly turning you into a mere shadow of a person you used to be, into a sad lonely soul who can no longer enjoy life. Dear Friend, I am not saying this in order to "scare" you, I am saying this because it is a fact and it is good that you are aware of it: it helps you to deal with the future, whatever it might hold.
I do not know the fine details of your life with your husband, you must complete the above lists on your own. Once you have done that, please look at the list (this is the same procedure I did when I was fighting my own battle, trying to break free from a person who had strong narcissistic tendencies, finally succeeding). Then make your decision. Life without your husband is unpredictable, a journey to the unknown, but if you stay with him, you know exactly what you will get; all the cards are at the table, there are no question marks. Your husband has been like this for 27 years, it is unlikely that he would suddenly change into a caring, empathetic person who is taking your feelings into account. In a way this is not his "fault", it is simply the way his personality is. Your narcissistic husband is not an "evil" person, he is simply very different from you, and the fact is that this difference is making you feel depressed and unhappy. If you stay with your husband you know exactly how your life will go, until the end. The choice is yours. Based on your letter it sounds as if you have already made that choice. I am so happy to hear that, because I know your choice is the right one.
Dear Friend, please do not understand me in a wrong way: I am not blaming you or saying you are weak even if you would decide to stay with your husband. Many women and men decide to stay in a negative relationship, for various reasons. Some stay due to financial reasons, some because they cannot stand the painful withdrawal symptoms one gets when one is trying to leave one's spouse. It is a hard, rocky path to freedom and peace. If you are not strong enough to travel down that path today or in near future (or even for the rest of your life), please do not blame yourself, you are only a human, as are we all.
Even if you stay with your husband for the rest of your life, your life is still a unique, precious thing. There is no one like you on this planet. Look into a mirror and feel happy about who and what you are. You say you are involved with arts: that is a tremendous asset. You have a channel to express your emotions, to express who you are and enjoy while you are doing it. Nothing can take that away from you. You have also done something else that is extremely valuable: you have written down your story and submitted it to this website so that others can read it and learn from it. Please let me thank you one more time for sending your story. You describe so well how it is like to live with a narcissistic person. Your story will help others to find the strength to leave their narcissistic partner and to start the process of recovery!
Even though I said you should not blame yourself if you stay in your relationship, I am wishing you will find some way to leave this person, who is clearly making you feel depressed and unhappy. I know it is very difficult to leave in your situation, but please remember that nothing is certain in this life, even if you choose to stay. You wrote: "I do not want to hate him. I want to love myself". That is exactly the right kind of approach! This is not about him, this is all about YOU and your life. Your narcissistic husband is making you feel unhappy. You have given him 27 years to prove himself to be worthy of you, and it does not seem he has done that. You have now done all you can, now it is your time to leave and live your own life.
Dear Friend, if you decide to leave, please feel free to write to me anytime you want, I am here for you and I will support you any way I can. If you decide to stay with your husband, please write back to me and tell me how you are doing. No matter what you decide, I am on your side. Never hesitate to write!
We all wish to have some meaning to our life. I am so happy that I have been able to help others who are suffering in an abusive relationship with a narcissistic person. Dear Reader, you can help yourself and others who are in similar situation by sending your story to this website (you find the instructions below), and you can receive comments and feedback from me and other readers. Please feel free to send your story and help yourself and others to heal.
This life is too beautiful to be wasted in suffering with a narcissistic partner. Let us help each other to break free and to recover!
Ps. Read the developments to this story from the "comments" section below.
If you wish to submit your own story and get feedback and support for your situation or if you wish to contact me for any other reason, send me email to